Category Archives: Young Adult

Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge

Her head hurt. There was a sound grating against her mind, a music-less rasp like the rustling of paper. Somebody had taken a laugh, crumpled it into a great, crackly ball and stuffed her skull with it. Seven days, it laughed. Seven days. 

  I’ve never read Hardinge – although a quick Wikipedia search shows she was born in the same year and county as me! But there is something gorgeous in her use of figurative language: the crumpled crackly laugh above vanish “like breath from glass” as two warm hands close around hers “as if they were a nest for it” and recalling her name, Triss, “seemed a bit more natural” than her full name, Theresa, “like a book falling open on a much-viewed page”.

I do like each of these similes and metaphors… But I wonder if they all needed to be included in page 1 before Triss has even opened her eyes. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as purple prose… but maybe a hint of lilac is creeping in…

World Book Day 2015 Shelfies

So at my school, we are doing this to support World Book Day (5th March): take a Shelfie of your bookshelf. 

Here are mine:Edit

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My Year In Books: Best Reads of 2014

It’s that time of year again: the last day before New Year. As with last year, it’s time to look back and consider the books I’ve read.

This post will deal with my favourite reads this year. Worst reads (of which there weren’t that many!) will come later – follow this link to see them! So this is, I suppose, like the Booker Prize… Except that there’s no money on offer… And that these are books read in rather than published in the last year.

So not very much like the Man Booker at all really! Although there will be some overlapping books.

Right let’s aim for a top five.

#5 The Golem and The Djinni by Helene Wecker was actually my first read of the year! Beautiful depictions of immigrant cultures to New York and compelling on many levels: sociological, fantastical, personal and a rollicking good plot!

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#4 Room by Emma Donoghue. A powerful and poignant story of a mother and child brought up in the most appalling situation as captives. Donoghue said she wanted to create that story at a distance from the horror and terror of the kidnapping when rituals had been established and tedium set in. And the most beautifully realised child’s voice I’ve read.

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#3 Harvest by Jim Crace which was a Man Booker nominee in 2013 – as Room was in 2010. An absolutely astounding evocation of a moment in time and a wonderfully breathy summery feel to it which makes it wonderful to recall in this grey weather.

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#2 The History Of The Rain by Niall Williams.

I really did love this book, a Man Booker longlist nominee. I loved the poetry of the language, the literariness of it, the humour and humanity.

Just absolutely wonderful.

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#1 The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton.

I only came upon this book and Catton because of her Booker-winning The Luminaries which was also wonderful. But for me The Rehearsal was sublime. It was coruscating and complex and writhed like a snake under the reader’s eyes. Exquisitely discomforting.

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Ahhh… But now I’m already worrying about this list. Am I happy with the order? Should The Luminaries have been included? What of all the other books that were great but I’ve not included.

So a handful of honourable mentions, perhaps?

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Good Omens by Messrs Pratchett and Gaiman

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Free Chaos Walking Short Stories

I am shocked. Genuinely shocked.

And then dismayed at the world form being so self-centred that a small act of generosity can shock me.

Patrick Ness is a multiple Carnegie award winning author – and I’m sure winner and nominee in numerous other awards too. I’m not going to say that he’s a Young Adult author: he is just an author. For us all. His novels range from science fiction to mythic magic realism to genuine emotion. His A Monster Calls still gets me: lump in throat, eyes prickling kind of getting.

Anyways… Patrick Ness’ trilogy Chaos Walking is brilliant: a wonderfully realised universe; fully rounded and engaging characters; a fabulous balance between action and emotion. And in addition to the three books of the trilogy, there are three short stories filling in some of the gaps in this fantastic world.

Available for free.

Download them from HERE.

Three original shirt stories from a truly exceptional writer.

For free.

Why did I not know of this before?

Go.

Download.

Stop reading this; read them!

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Fairytale Remix

Being Dad to a twelve month old daughter, my days are replete with a steady diet of Disney at the moment! Not to mention my own reading preferences which tends towards the Fairytale and mythological. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is a book I return to over and again. As is the rather disturbing In The Company Of Wolves based on her versions of Red Riding Hood in The Bloody Chamber which can be seen here.

One example of a Grimm fairytale which exemplifies the moral and narrative ambiguity of the genre is conveniently brief and a single paragraph long:

Once upon a time there was a stubborn child who never did what his mother told him to do. The dear Lord, therefore, did not look kindly upon him, and let him become sick. No doctor could cure him and in a short time he lay on his deathbed. After he was lowered into his grave and covered over with earth, one of his little arms suddenly emerged and reached up into the air. They pushed it back down and covered the earth with fresh earth, but that did not help. The little arm kept popping out. So the child’s mother had to go to the grave herself and smack the little arm with a switch. After she had done that, the arm withdrew, and then, for the first time, the child had peace beneath the earth.

This is deliciously sparse: the image of the child’s arm stubbornly popping up out of the grave is undoubtedly comic: it’s almost Monty Pythonesque in its visual comedy. I have visions of the villagers surrounding the grave, whacking the arm like a game of human Whack-A-Mole! But… was the child buried alive? The paragraph doesn’t actually say he died: are we laughing at the desperate attempts of a sick child to claw its way out of its grave? And allowing a child to become ill and die because it didn’t obey its mother? It doesn’t recall sound like a Christian way for “the dear Lord” to respond. Is the recalcitrant hand a sign of divine remorse, a forgiving resurrection thwarted by human ignorance? And why does it say the mother ‘had” to go? What compelled her? Was she torn from her grieving by the villagers? However stubborn her child was, and all children are incredibly stubborn, a mother would mourn its death keenly. And keen mournfully. Is the mother a victim of or a symbol of the oppressive dictatorial (and male?) village? Is it significant that the mother reverts to violence when the others could be seen as tenderly covering the arm over? How convincing is the peace discovered in the final sentence?

So this sounds like a fabulous conference at Comic-Con that I wish could have attended.

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Poll: Carnegie 2013